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Regional profile: Rioja Oriental

Previously known as Rioja Baja, Rioja Oriental is emerging from the shadows of its high-profile neighbours and overcoming its unfavourable reputation, producing wines of real character and quality.

In between the lockdowns in 2021, I took the train from Zaragoza to Logroño. As ever, it was an eye opener. It’s a slow train, which gives you the chance to savour the countryside. You enter Rioja proper at Alfaro, almost its easternmost point. This may be Rioja, but it’s completely different to its popular image. As the train threads its way up to Logroño, it encounters time and again the river Ebro, which is making its way in the opposite direction down to the Mediterranean with many a meander. In parts, it’s an agricultural idyll of riverside, overhanging trees and distant mountains – a complete contrast to the densely planted vineyards of Alta and Alavesa.

Scroll down to see tasting notes and scores for 10 great wines that showcase Rioja Oriental

This is Rioja Oriental. Second only to Rioja Alta in size, yet still as little known for its wines as for its striking landscapes. Given Rioja’s fame, this is odd. Writer and historian Pablo García Mancha has this to say: ‘The area of Rioja Oriental has always been almost forgotten. It’s a territory that smells of wine on all four sides, but for historical reasons has always been left out of the great centres of decision-making in our region.’

Ten of the best wines that showcase Rioja Oriental

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